Beth was not in the mood for idle chitchat although it wasn’t in her nature to be dismissive either. It had been a long tiring day of travel and all she craved in this moment was a chance to put her head back for a bit of a nod-off.
Even closing her eyes to feign sleep didn’t seem to have the desired effect of quelling the incessant chatter coming from the bench beside her. The insatiable droning on and on of the elderly woman’s voice made that nigh on impossible.
Earlier that day Beth had embraced the welcome distraction of making Moirin’s acquaintance aboard the ferry. She’d enjoyed the charming exchange of witty repartee shared with the pleasant stranger and was warmed by her melodic ‘old country’ lilt. Added to that, their light banter had helped to alleviate the tediousness of the miles left to travel, as well as providing a sense of comfort and camaraderie. An overwhelming sense of loneliness seemed to have accompanied Beth on her trip.
That had been hours ago when they’d been in the midst of crossing the Irish Sea from Scotland to Ireland. With the passage of time, and the accumulated grime of the days’ long travel, the welcome novelty of having someone to chat with had worn terribly thin.
When they’d eventually disembarked from the ferry at Dun Laoghaire to climb aboard the inland train, Beth had heaved a huge sigh of relief. Only a handful of fellow travellers had queued up alongside her to transfer for the last leg of her trip.
Fewer seats to fill meant she’d likely have the luxury of settling into a secluded corner of her own. A quiet moment to reflect and tamp down the sense of guilt that seemed to be percolating inside her. Guilt stemming from the overpowering urge to breach social etiquette by shunning Moirin’s continued company.
Having gathered her suitcase and tote bag off of the station’s platform, she climbed into the railway carriage choosing a seat near the back.
Much to her chagrin, and despite the abundance of seats from which to choose — at least half of the train remained empty once the straggle of beleaguered passengers had boarded — her hopes of blessed solitude were quickly dashed.
Moirin’s kerchiefed head bobbed up into view as she made her way up the metal stairs at the front of the car. She proceeded to drag her wheeled suitcase along the aisle behind her and when she spied Beth seated alone at the back of the car, she gestured in acknowledgement of her and proceeded forward, eventually coming to rest with a perfunctory plop of her wide girth into the seat directly beside her. Beth fought to stifle a groan.
She silently acknowledged that earlier in the day it had been a bit of a blunder on her part to have appeared so openly amenable to socializing. That had led to her feelings of frustration now.
The seating on the train was confining enough and too snug to be sharing the same bench seat. The luxury of putting her feet up, as she’d hoped to do, was no longer a viable option.
Her back ached something terrible, a huge knot forming in her lower back. Her head wouldn’t stop its incessant pounding; the beginnings of a migraine no doubt. Likely the result of inhaling all of those noxious exhaust fumes while scrambling through the city in a maddening dash to the ferry gate. All of which were exacerbated further by an insatiable thirst, a gnawing hunger, and a full bladder.
She took solace in the fact that this would be the last leg of her journey. She was completely spent. All she craved at this juncture in time was sleep.
Moirin could definitely spin a yarn — and spin she did — rarely stopping to take a full breath, nor pausing long enough to allow for a response, had one been forthcoming.
Despite the never-ending chatter, the rhythmic lulling motion of the train soon had Beth nodding groggily and falling into a fitful slumber.
She jerked awake to the keening screech of the train’s brakes, noticing Moirin had at last fallen silent, her head bobbing listlessly to and fro to the lulling tempo of the train.
Later, between the rhythmic clicking of Moirin’s knitting needles, and the steady humming drone of the train’s wheels along the tracks, she became aware that Moirin had asked her a question which had been left hanging suspended and unanswered between them.
“When is th’ wee bairn due, by the by?”
Moirin’s gentle query came out couched in a hushed tone. Beth, momentarily taken aback, paused in response, reflexively reaching up to swipe a hanky over the snailtrail of drool that had dribbled off the corner of her lip and crusted over while she’d slept.
“How? How did you know?”
Beth’s stammered response came out sounding abrasive, more than a tad snippish. She glanced down at her lap, drawing her hand gently across her belly. It was easy for her to detect the slight rise and dip there, but found it surprising that someone who was unfamiliar with her would have taken such close notice.
“Ah lassie. Ah dinna ken. Twas jus a sense I had after watching ye. Ye looked a tetch green and peaky on th’ ferry trip over. I passed it off as a sign ye t’weren’t possessed o’ a seafaring constitution.
Then, I picked up on a couple of other signs that led me to thinking you may be in the family way. I’m fair intuitive when it comes tae matters concerning birthing ‘n’ th’ like.”
With that said, Moirin winked and tapped her finger against her temple in a knowing manner.
“Ahh. I see.”
Beth relaxed and gathered her thoughts, mulling over what it had been precisely that had made her feel so vulnerable, thereby producing such a defensive reaction to what had been Moirin’s harmless observation. It had to be the result of the surging pregnancy hormones. Her moods were all over the place these days.
A simple offered exchange of a kind, tenderhearted word, could just as easily have her dissolving into a puddle of tears as a stern or nastily worded barb might do. Time to move the conversation along.
“It’s a lovely piece you’re working on.”
Beth nodded towards the patch of knitting stretched across Moirin’s lap.
“It’s of such an unusual colour. You don’t often see yarns in that particular shade of blue. Periwinkle, isn’t it? Those tiny rabbit clasps down the front are precious. Is it a cardigan?”
Moirin’s entire demeanour brightened; a slight blush rose to her cheeks, a warm engaging smile broke out accompanied by a twinkle to her eye.
“Och aye. It’s fur a wee bairn ah hae yit tae meet. A grandchild ah ne’er knew was coming, born tae a daughter ah will be meeting fur th’ first time th’day. ” Moirin released a deep cleansing breath.
“Weel actually, it’ll be th’ seicont time we’ve met but ah have nae seen her since she was a wee yun, ‘n’ e’en then ’twas only a quick peek which shouldna happened at all by th’ rules, but fur a young nurse taking pity on me.
But ta answer ye question. It’s a bunny hutch,” Moirin laughed as she clutched the wool remnants close to her bosom.
“A wee bunting most would call it. I knit one long ago fur mah sweet bairn afore th’ sisters whisked her awae ta her adopted family — oan her wey tae her new life. It’s why she came to be called th’ name o’ Bunny. Mah wee Bunny.”
“Ah. I see.”
Beth found herself swallowing past the lump that had formed in her throat. Moirin’s sad saga had elicited her own raw emotions at what she herself would soon be facing at the end of her journey: meeting the mother who had been forced to give her up twenty-nine years ago.
“You must be so elated Moirin. Over the moon and back I’d imagine. What a tragically touching story.”
Beth’s natural sense of curiosity had been piqued. Taking care not to appear too nosy with her own probing questions, Beth found herself wanting to know if Moirin knew the name of the baby she’d given up — the adoptive name of the woman she’d be meeting soon, now that the baby she’d given birth to had grown up and become a mother herself.
“Och aye. Weel a’course her new family wouldna keep the name I chose. That wouldna do in the circumstance. They named her Bethany. Bethany Elizabet Barber. A strong name to be sure.”
An astonished gasp rang out taking Beth by surprise, only to realize that the sudden release of bottled up emotion had emerged from her very own mouth.
She swivelled slowly in her seat to gaze with wonder into Moirin’s tear filled eyes, at her softly sodden cheeks, and realized in that moment the indelible truth of it all.
Susan Duffield-Lodge worked in the health care field until retiring a short time ago. She is now fulfilling her lifelong passion of writing. After a lifetime of voraciously consuming books of every genre, she is hoping to write a novel that she herself would find worth reading. Susan currently resides in Southwestern Ontario with her husband and energetic eight month old English Springer Spaniel, Rowan. She and her husband are the parents of four grown men, and have three grandchildren. Susan enjoys live theatre, cooking, gardening, writing, and long walks along the Avon river conversing with the resident swans, ducks and other wildlife.